Thursday, March 16, 2017

Preparing for an Ayahuasca Retreat, Part 1: Preliminary Considerations

I spent twelve days in the Amazon rainforest attending an Ayahuasca retreat where we drank the brew on seven nights. It was both the most difficult and the most therapeutic experience of my life. If you're thinking of trying Ayahuasca, here are some things to consider before taking the plunge. (The video version of this post can be found here.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A recipe for disaster: Japanese culture + unrestrained capitalism

Headline from USA Today: Japanese are working themselves to death--literally

The article above focuses on the recent death of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi, who committed suicide after months of being forced to work ungodly hours at the major Japanese advertising firm Dentsu. This particular tragedy made the headlines perhaps only because the Japanese Department of Labor officially acknowledged that Takahashi's suicide indeed resulted from overwork, but an even greater tragedy is that in Japan, similar deaths routinely occur and then quietly get swept under the rug.

As I wrote in You Can't Spell Tokyo Without K.O.:
It’s difficult to exaggerate the extreme degree to which the Japanese are overworked. In English-speaking cultures, the phrase “worked to death” often occurs in the figurative sense of being extremely busy, but in Japan the equivalent phrase 過労死 (karōshi) only occurs in the literal sense, because it has become a nationwide crisis: every year a considerable number of Japanese employees actually die from overwork. Most instances of karōshi result not from any sort of back-breaking physical labor in hazardous working conditions like those of a coal miner, but from a gradual accumulation of anxiety and psychological stress that eats away at the employee day by day until culminating in death, often from heart attack or stroke, often before the age of forty. The unbearable stress of work also contributes to Japan’s epidemic of suicide, which, as of this writing, is the country’s leading cause of death in young adults.
Several factors contribute to Japan's epidemic of overwork. One major factor is summed up in the Japanese idiom 出る杭は打たれる (deru kui wa utareru), which translates to “the stake [or nail] that sticks out gets hammered down” — a stern reminder to lay low and avoid standing out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell

When I first read Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception / Heaven and Hell, most of it was lost on me, and I assumed this was because at the time I lacked any experience with psychedelics. The second time I read the book — many years and many psychedelics later — I still found myself struggling to follow along. I generally don't write negative reviews, but I think this book offers at least two valuable lessons to writers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Expanded distribution for You Can't Spell Tokyo Without K.O.

Rejoice! Amazon's reign of exclusivity rights has ended! In addition to the paperback and Kindle versions, You Can't Spell Tokyo Without KO is now available at Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, and maybe even at your local library (if your local library's curator has fine taste in books).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

K.O. Outtake #6: Trying to Get a Grip on Himself

The following is an outtake from You Can't Spell Tokyo Without K.O.: A photo-essay dissecting the Japanese epidemic of passing out in public. This text was ultimately edited out of the final version for one reason or another (redundant, or didn't fit the book's tone, or distracted from the book's main themes, etc.), but I'm including it here because at least one beta reader mentioned that he or she found it worth reading.

Trying to Get a Grip on Himself

Every so often, those struggling to stay awake will attempt to feign consciousness, as perhaps was the case with this gentleman who held his mobile phone in the general vicinity of his ear. If he intended this as a decoy, the calm silence of the early morning train station gave him up, exposing the unmistakable sound emanating from beneath his low-tucked cap: choppy, irregular gasps of snoring that continually unclogged and then reclogged globs of phlegm in his throat.

The curious placement of his right hand raises more questions than it answers. The manner in which his thumb lodged in the fold of his shirt suggests that perhaps his hand simply fell that way, but the remaining four digits curl slightly inward, cupping his genitals and suggesting a wide range of other possibilities.